If P.M. Tuilaepa’s govt. picks on Police, they should do the same to all others in the public service

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Some time a while ago, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi issued an order to all Police officers. 

To avoid cases of conflict of interest and for the sake of transparency and good governance within the Ministry, as the Minister of Police he banned couples from working together.

“There are many reasons why this should not happen,” Tuilaepa said. “This is a standard policy all over the world; a wife cannot work with her husband. 

“What will happen; is that they will not heed the policies of the Ministry, but do what benefits them as a family. 

 “The same will occur if they have their children working together with them. This is one of the reasons there are numerous problems within the Ministry of Police.”

What those problems are, Tuilaepa did not say. 

But at a quick glance, the Prime Minister has a valid point about couples and family members working together. 

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out the potential conflicts.

Keep in mind that there are always two sides to a coin. Now last Saturday, some Police officers affected by the decision spoke out, although under the condition of anonymity.

“This is our bread and butter,” one senior Police officer said. 

“If we resign from this job, what are going to do? How are we to look after our families? What about the loans we have to pay? We are also leaders in villages and churches where we have to contribute. How are we to do that?”

One officer implicated said he could understand the rationale behind the P.M’s decision but there has got be a better way of implementing it.

“It’s not like me and my other half work in the same Unit,” he said. 

Another officer highlighted an interesting issue. 

“So they are targeting legally married couples, what about the officers who are in defacto relationships within the force?” he said. 

“What about the officers who are having affairs in there? Does that not constitute a conflict of interest? Where is the fairness in that? 

“It seems to me that they are targeting legally married couples and yet many officers who are in defacto and extra marital relationships are left to roam around freely.”

A fourth Police officer added that he was thinking of divorcing his wife to keep their jobs so they could continue to feed their families.

“I am a dedicated and a committed Police officer,” he said. “I feel that all the hard work is going down the drain because we are blamed for the issues that have occurred within the Ministry. I don’t understand the Prime Minister’s reasons.

 “Did the government not think about our service and the years we have put our lives on the line for the country only to be told that I have to resign because my spouse and I work here? 

“This is unbelievable and I am appalled to say the least the government did not think things through before this regulation was signed into law. 

“I am a victim here, my spouse and I are paying for the mistakes made by the previous Commissioners and this is unfair treatment.”

The unhappy Police officers said a whole lot more but we will stop here. 

We can understand their frustrations, especially some of them who have perhaps been with the Ministry for a long time.

But this is a difficult situation that needs to be dealt with in a more sensitive manner. Prime Minister Tuilaepa has a point but he cannot just dump it on these poor Police officers and expect them to live with it. We are talking about people here with feelings and obligations to their families and people who depend on them. As one Police officer pointed out, this is their bread and butter. 

The government has got to tread a lot more carefully.

Besides, looking in from the outside, we feel that perhaps the Police have been unfairly targeted in this matter. We say this because there are many other Ministries where these cases exist – not just the Ministry of Police. 

Which means therefore that if the Prime Minister and his administration are going to come down hard on the issue, they should be consistent and do it to everyone else in the public service. 

What should really happen is that each case must be considered by its merits. It must be assessed properly by an independent panel that must decide if the performance of a certain role is affected by these relationships.

Samoa is not exactly brimming with an abundance of talent when it comes to certain professions. Take the medical sector for example. Will the government consider issuing the same order to doctors and nurses? These are critical professions. What about other parts of the public service where couples work?

The point is that Prime Minister Tuilaepa is not wrong in what he is trying to do. 

But he needs to be consistent, fair and not just pick on a few defenseless Police officers while the rest of the public service is free to the same thing he is trying to stop at the Police.

That’s what we think anyway. What about you? Share your thoughts with us!

Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

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